First daughter Ivanka Trump gets West Wing office

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 6:03 PM
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 6:02 PM


            First daughter Ivanka Trump gets West Wing office

Cementing her role as a powerful White House influence, Ivanka Trump is working out of a West Wing office and will get access to classified information, though she is not technically serving as a government employee, according to an attorney for the first daughter.

Since President Donald Trump took office, his eldest daughter has been a visible presence in the White House, where her husband, Jared Kushner, already serves as a senior adviser. On Friday, she participated in a meeting on vocational training with the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Jamie Gorelick, an attorney and ethics adviser for Ivanka Trump, said Monday that the first daughter will not have an official title, but will get a West Wing office, government-issued communications devices and security clearance to access classified information. Gorelick said Ivanka Trump would follow the ethics rules that apply to government employees.

"Our view is that the conservative approach is for Ivanka to voluntarily comply with the rules that would apply if she were a government employee, even though she is not," said Gorelick, who also helped Kushner with the legal strategy that led to his White House appointment. "The White House Counsel's Office agrees with that approach."

Ivanka Trump's role has already come under scrutiny because there is little precedent for a member of the first family with this kind of influence. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A person with knowledge of Ivanka Trump's thinking, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations, said she believes she can offer more independent perspective to her father by not serving as a White House staffer.

A popular surrogate for her father on the campaign trail, Ivanka Trump moved her young family to Washington at the start of the administration and signaled plans to work on economic issues, like maternity leave and child care. In a statement, she said: "I will continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life."

Federal anti-nepotism laws prevent relatives from being appointed to government positions. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel recently said the president's "special hiring authority" allowed him to appoint Kushner to the West Wing staff. Gorelick noted the office also made clear that the president could consult family members as private citizens, arguing that this is what Ivanka Trump will be doing.

The first daughter has sought to distance herself from the Trump Organization and her lifestyle brand, which offers shoes, clothing and jewelry. She has removed herself from executive roles and will have a more hands-off approach to the brand — though she will still get certain information and will have the power to veto new deals if they raise ethical red flags.

Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who served as President George W. Bush's chief White House lawyer on ethics, said that Ivanka Trump is effectively working as a White House employee. He said that "means that she, like her husband, has to follow the rules. It's not a huge deal if she stays out of things that affect her financial interests."

Painter said that means Trump should avoid anything to do with foreign trade with countries where her products are made, as well as recuse herself from real estate matters, given Kushner's family real estate business.

Trump says she will follow ethics rules and some of her financial information will be included in Kushner's official disclosures. She would have to disclose additional financial information if she were in a senior White House role, said Painter. That could include more details about her lifestyle brand, including her contracts and income.

Attorney Andrew Herman, who has advised lawmakers on ethics issues, said he thought the administration should make her role official. He said: "I think the right way to do that is to make her a special government employee. But that implicates all kind of formal and disclosure issues."

Ivanka Trump continues to own her brand. But she has handed daily management to the company president and has set up a trust to provide further oversight. The business cannot make deals with any foreign state, and the trustees will confer with Gorelick over any new agreements. Ivanka Trump will also be able to veto proposed new transactions.

Ivanka Trump has also barred the business from using her image to promote the products in advertising or marketing.

To be sure, the trustees are in the family — her husband's siblings Joshua Kushner and Nicole Meyer. But Gorelick said the goal of the trust wasn't to shield Trump from everything, but to remove her from the day-to-day operations. She also acknowledged that the arrangement did not eliminate conflicts, but she said Trump is trying to minimize them and will recuse herself from any administration decision-making that affects her business.

With the Trump Organization, Ivanka Trump has stepped down from a leadership role and will receive fixed payments rather than a share of the profits.

Ivanka Trump has also written a book, "Women Who Work," that will be released in May. The proceeds and royalties will be donated to charity, Gorelick said.

Paul Manafort's Russia ties: 5 things to know

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2017 @ 10:48 AM

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, secretly worked a decade ago to help Russian President Vladmir Putin at the behest of a Russian billionaire, The Associated Press reported Friday.

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The Trump administration and Manafort himself have denied that he previously worked for Russian interests, but documents and interviews obtained by the AP appeared to contradict that claim.

Manafort, a lobbyist and political consultant, worked for the Trump campaign from March to August 2016. He resigned after an AP report revealed he had coordinated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russia political party until 2014.

Here are five things to know about the latest allegations:
  1. In a confidential strategy plan obtained by the AP, Manafort pitched a plan to Russian aluminum magnate and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska aimed at influencing “politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government.”
    The plan existed as early as June 2005, the wire service reported.
    "We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo obtained by the AP. Manafort wrote that the effort "will be offering a great service that can refocus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."
  2. Manafort signed a $10 million annual contract with Deripaska in 2006, but it was unclear how much work he did under that contact, according to the AP.
    A person familiar with the work that Manafort did for Deripaska told the AP that the two maintained a business relationship until at least 2009.
    A spokesman for Deripaska declined to answer questions from the AP.
  3. Manafort denied that his work for Deripaska was “inappropriate or nefarious” in a statement released to the AP.
    “I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago, representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments,” Manafort told the wire service. “My work for Mr. Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.” 
  4. The report comes as the Trump administration deals with increased scrutiny of its ties with Russia. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday, FBI director James Comey confirmed that authorities are investigating whether Trump associates and Russian officials worked together to influence the November presidential election in Trump’s favor.
    “The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey said, according to The New York Times.
    Comey declined to say whether Manafort was a target of the investigation.
  5. The situation could prove criminal if authorities determine that Manafort violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The act requires lobbyists who work in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments and leaders to report to the Justice Department about their actions.
    Manafort did not disclose his pro-Putin work to the Justice Department, according to the AP.
    Failure to register as a foreign agent is a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

American spring breakers chant 'Build that wall' while vacationing in Mexico

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 11:34 AM

A Mexican newspaper blasted a group of young Americans visiting Cancun on spring break after witnesses said they broke into chants of “Build that wall” earlier this month and refused to stop, despite complaints.

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In an editorial published Friday, The Yucatan Times said the incident was not isolated but was part of a growing number of complaints about “offensive, rude and haughty” spring break tourists who flock to Mexico for vacation.

Newlyweds Suly and Anaximandro Amable took to social media on March 6 after they said they attended a show on the “Pirate Ship” out of Puerto Juarez as part of their honeymoon, according to The Yucatan Times and social media posts.

Suly Amable wrote on Facebook that she and her husband were getting off the boat after the show when they heard the chants.

"In the face of such stupidity, one doesn't know how to immediately react," she wrote. "We were stunned. The whole thing seemed implausible."

Anaximandro Amable said the group who broke into the chant might have been intoxicated when they “began to sing the infamous ‘Build that wall’ chant louder and louder.”

“I have always been tolerant of the countries of the world and I have wanted to believe that human stupidity and ignorance … is characteristic of a small group of people,” Anaximandro Amable wrote. “But there are things with which one cannot be tolerant, such as discourse that incites hatred.”

The Yucatan Times reported that several Mexican tourists on the ship became annoyed and uncomfortable as the chants went on, but the Americans refused to stop chanting.

President Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico.

“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me,” Trump said in June 2015 while announcing his presidential run. "I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

Trump fires off tweets slamming Russia allegations

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 8:32 AM

President Donald Trump fired off some angry tweets Monday morning regarding allegations that his campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 election.

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The president defended himself and his campaign by reasserting that he has never colluded with Russia — not during his presidential bid and not after the election.

Trump also repeated his request for an investigation into the leaks that have continuously emerged from the White House since Trump took the oath of office less than 100 days ago.

According to Mediaite, the tweets may be an effort by Trump to get ahead of any future investigations by Congress regarding his relationship with the Russian government, especially since FBI Director James Comey will be testifying Monday about allegations — made by Trump himself — that Comey’s department wiretapped Trump Tower by direction of Barack Obama during the 2016 campaign.

Ivanka Trump fans spending up to $60K on plastic surgery to look like her

Published: Sunday, March 19, 2017 @ 7:02 AM

Some women are paying tens of thousands of dollars to look like Ivanka Trump, according to USA Today.

According to Dr. Franklin Rose, a Houston-based plastic surgeon, there has been an uptick in customers who want to more closely resemble the president's eldest daughter. Patients seeking plastic surgery often show up for their first appointment with a photo of a celebrity to indicate the type of work they’d like to have done, he said; for example, one might show a surgeon a photo of Angelina Jolie if the patient is seeking a lip filler. According to Rose, “Ivanka is sort of the new style icon for plastic surgery” within his practice.

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USA Today reports that one of Rose’s patients, 37-year-old Jenny Stewart, spent $30,000 to look more like Trump. That large sum was also a discounted fee because Stewart agreed to talk to reporters. Another one of his patients paid $60,000 to look like Trump and was profiled in People magazine. Rose said he isn’t surprised by the demand to look like Trump, given that the first daughter is a beautiful woman with covetable features, such as a small nose and high cheekbones.

Dr. Rob Rohrich, another plastic surgeon based in Texas, agreed with Rose's assessment of Trump’s popularity and influence.

“Yes, absolutely, I have had a lot of patients in the past six months or more who ask about Ivanka’s great and sculpted, clean facial features, including her high cheekbones and beautiful skin and elegant nose,” Rohrich said.

However, it’s possible that this phenomenon is contained to Texas. According to two East Coast surgeons profiled by USA Today, there has been no increase in demands to look like Trump — primarily because their clients don’t seek plastic surgery to look like somebody else; instead, they request that their surgeons enhance the natural features they already possess so that it can look as natural as possible.